Ron Howard’s Rush is an exuberant, diverting dramatisation of the legendary rivalry between Formula One racers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) over the course of the fateful Grand Prix season of 1976. Its combo of hair-raising behind-the-wheel action, heated off-track controversies and stormy relationship soap is hardly earth-shattering stuff, but Howard and writer Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon) do squeeze sufficient dramatic tension out of the opponents’ wildly different temperaments, while acknowledging their shared sense of purpose and conviction. Hunt is the blonde-and-blue-eyed Brit, a hard-partying, hot-headed playboy with raw driving talent to spare; Lauda, on the other hand, is a brusquely pragmatic Austrian who doesn’t have time for social frivolities, single-mindedly focused on the race to a fault.
Hemsworth and Brühl are both terrific, portraying the escalating competitive ribbing between the pair with good humour and genuine passion. Predictably, the women get sidelined: Olivia Wilde is wasted as Hunt’s model girlfriend Suzy Miller, Joséphine de La Baume’s role as Lauda’s wife ultimately reduced a series of wordless glances, which admittedly, she does remarkably well. Technically, Howard doesn’t do anything that John Frankenheimer didn’t already achieve with Grand Prix back in 1966, but some of it sure is dang pretty: armed with Dogme veteran/regular Danny Boyle cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, Rush’s racing sequences are gussied up with expressionistic splashes of hot, saturated colour that heighten the nerve-rattling, feverishly adrenalised view from inside the cockpit.